Literature Review of Cambridge by Caryl Phillips Essay Sample

For my Internal Assessment I have chosen to make a reappraisal of Caryl Phillips’ post-colonial work of fiction. “Cambridge” . This novel published in the twelvemonth 1991. explores the engagement of a assortment of signifiers of marginalisation. supplanting and eviction that emerge from the experience of cross-cultural brushs. It persistently raises inquiries of place. individuality and belonging. Philips’ novel is set in an nameless little Caribbean island during a transitional period. sometime between the abolishment of the slave trade in 1807 and the emancipation of slaves in 1834. Phillips raises the consciousness of the readers by foregrounding the ferociousness and horrors of bondage through perfected usage of narrative techniques such as imagination. sarcasm. symbols etc. He most wondrous uses these techniques to turn to the thematic concerns of the novel such as. Racial Prejudice. Women Subjugation. Loss of Identity and Cultural Erasure.

This work of fiction constitute self-aware fiction: to a greater extent. it is a medley of other narrations and intentionally calls attending to its intertextuality. Cambridge’s geographic expedition of bondage comprises the apposition of three chief narrations framed by an epilogue and prologue. The first two of the three narrations are written in first-person voice: those of Emily Cartwright. the kept woman of the plantation and Cambridge. a slave on the same plantation. The 3rd narrative seems to be a reproduction of an unsigned study in a modern-day newspaper sympathetic to break one’s back proprietors detailing the events taking up to Cambridge’s decease.

Emily’s “fictional” diary which recalls as Evelyn O’Callaghan has observed “real” travel diaries by 19th century adult females travelers such as Lady Nugent and Mrs. Carmichael. It describes her motion off from her place in England into “a dark tropical unknown” . where she intends to shack for no longer than three months. There seems to be uncertainty at the beginning of Emily’s diary as to where she belongs. Emily is sad to go forth a state which “beers the rubric of ( her ) home” . and she quotes the undermentioned lines to stress her sorrow: “O my state. I have no pride but that I belong to thee. and can compose my name in the muster-roll of world. an Englishman” . The problem is that she is in fact unable to “write ( her ) name in the muster-roll of mankind” as “an Englishman” . She is a adult female.

Equally early as the prologue we already can see that Emily is an “uncanny stranger’ . she at the same time belongs and does non belong. As the writer of the prologue puts it: “the truth was that she was flying the alone government which fastened her into backboards. girdles and corsets to better her position. The same friendliness government which advertised her as an ambassadress of grace” . This patriarchal “regime” of gender. which inscribes its rigidness on the female organic structure and sees adult females as no more than “children of larger growth” . besides dictates that she be married on her return from the West Indian plantation to a fifty-year old comfortable widowman with three kids to guarantee her rake father’s hereafter. The Prologue equates matrimony with “the rude mechanics of horse-trading” . To Emily. her ordered matrimony is nil less than “a manner of transit through life” .

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“Transportation” evokes the forced motion of slaves across the “middle passage” . To an extent. therefore. Emily’s place within the rigorous government of gender – being an object of the hereafter. profitable exchange between two work forces – is uncannily similar to the quandary of the black slaves she will shortly meet on the island. It comes as no surprise that Emily starts her “adventuring” as an emancipationist. reprobating the “iniquity of slavery” . In fact she begins to put down her observations in a diary exactly in order to teach her male parent as to the “pains” endured “by those whose labour enables him to go on to indulge himself in the heavy pocketed mode to which he has become accustomed” .

Emily’s place as visitant and adult female means that her rubric as kept woman is at times nominal. Her early protests against the ferociousness of some of the more common obnoxious patterns of the slave government transport really small weight with the estate superintendent and director. Mr. Brown. Furthermore. Emily’s marginality in plantation owner society is reinforced as much by her comparative artlessness every bit newcomer as by her ain vague and unspecified broad beliefs. In the early yearss. she sees herself as ‘set apart” from plantation owner society ; she sides with the emancipationist runs and is disapproving of her father’s chevalier ignorance of the “pains and pleasures… . endured by those whose labour enables him to indulge himself in the heavy-pocketed mode to which he has become accustomed” . She sees herself as on a moral campaign of kinds and hopes to change over her male parent to the emancipationist cause through her first-hand cognition and history of the “inquiry of bondage. ” Yet her disapprobation of her compatriots’ abstract support for the emancipationists and convert existent support of “old biass. ” will progressively use to her.

Emily’s history of her initial brushs with “negroes” on the island is testament to the strength and deepness of European racial biass. She finds it hard to mask her repugnance at the visual aspect. frock. manners and linguistic communication of the black peoples of the island. She repeatedly associates them with the carnal land. misidentifying slave kids for monkeys. depicting slave places as “lairs and nests” and the noises of the slave small town as a distant “braying. ” Emily objects to her black slave housekeeper’s usage of Creole English. informing Stella that she “had no desire to hear ( English ) mocked by the funny thick vocalization of the negro language” . Furthermore she reproduces without remark her companions’ usage of whiteness as an index of civilisation. As clip base on ballss. her character seems to warm to the racism of plantation life. The slaves on the plantation are represented as subhuman species of people and she upholds the familiar stereotypes about their animate being and childly nature. their junior-grade larceny and their wanton sexual behaviour. In depicting the vocals and celebrations of the slave small town. Emily comments. “Such a vulgar. yet deft. set of jokes ne’er came into the encephalon or out of the limbs of anything but a boy of Ham basking his jubilee” .

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In an interview cited by Gail Low. Phillips comments that “Cambridge’s narrative serves as a necessary restorative to Emily’s racial biass. Cambridge is lettered. articulate. educated and a Christian. the antithesis of Emily’s boies of Ham. ” His life’s testimony is a painful history of the Middle Passage and the “social death” he undergoes in his transmutation from free adult male to break one’s back. Cambridge’s narration of his transit and gaining control besides reverses some of the Eurocentric prejudice of Emily’s history and inverts some of its stereotypes. Once called Olumide he had assumed that his white capturers would eat him. a reversal of the stereotype of the African as man-eater. To Olumide’s ears. the English linguistic communications he hears “resembled nil more civilised than the frenzied clatter of baboons. “

More of import. his description of the Middle Passage is a disking history of how barbarian European work forces can be. The slave ship is described as a bloodcurdling topographic point of “perpetual dark. ” with “human flesh merchants” as superintendents. In Olumide’s history. the supposedly barbarian work forces indulge in Acts of the Apostless of ‘savage and barbarous cruelty” and “malice” ne’er witnessed in peoples antecedently encountered. Olumide’s accession to the position of free adult male. his instruction and literacy should render him equal to any free-born Englishman ; that he plays by the regulations and is still “ostracized” harmonizing to Gail Low. labeled barbarian and so sold back into bondage is a tragic indictment of the very civilisation he aspires towards.

Cambridge alias Olumide alias Thomas assumed name David Henderson speaks of his “extraordinary circumstances” in a manner that recalls Othello. He presents himself as a “black Christian” . He besides sees himself as a “virtual Englishman” who proudly owns a “superior English mind” . He is “unworthy of heavy exploration” . Therefore. he successfully inquiries the mutuality of whiteness. Christian faith. proper usage of English and English sexual restraint: an mutuality that is cardinal to the procedure of building and redefinition of culturally hegemonic colonial individualities.

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Merely in fiction does Cambridge acquire a opportunity to hold a rejoinder. if non retaliation. It is because he has a sound bid of English and is acquainted with the civilization and psychological science of the Whites. Because he has read the Scriptures and adopted the Western ways and because he is cagey plenty to know apart between persons. black or white. he makes his instance rather convincingly and wins us. the readers over.

The Epilogue raises inquiries of place and belonging. To an extent. Emily begins to larn to brood in hybridity as place. Her stay on the island is no longer a roundabout way or a domestication of the spread between place and place: “Are there no ships that might take me off? But take me off from what and whom? ” Her stay becomes a site of theodolite in which her puting out and hopes for reaching are capable to equal question. To Mr. Mc Donald’s inquiry: “And when will you return to our state? ” she replies with another inquiry: “Our state? ” Emily underscores that. every bit far as she is concerned. there is a relaxation of the cultural restraints of the gendered government of Englishness.

The ultimate sarcasm of the novel is that both Emily and Cambridge die at the terminal of the novel. both die entirely. as of their fates were welded. Make these deceases spell the licking of clarity and the victory of imperialist political orientation. corroborated by the eviction of the broad superintendent. Mr. Wilson? Even though Emily’s image wavers ( she is far from being a idol of tolerance ) . her decease. which represents her maladaptation to this new universe. foreshadows the terminal of the slave system ( her male parent decides to sell the plantation ) . Cambridge’s hanging insinuates that a individual individual could non battle ignorance. Neither Emily nor Cambridge could get away the trap of the inhibitory colonial system.